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Posts Tagged ‘women and self-confidence’

Fear Of Shopping

In behavior, business, Fashion, life, Money, women, work on April 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm
Vintage Clothes Shops Camden London

Vintage clothing shops in Camden. Fun, but not this time! Image by iknow-uk via Flickr

I did it.

I went out and spent a gobsmacking amount of money last weekend buying new clothes.

It was not quick, simple or fun — at several junctures, like an infant needing a nap, I found myself trying not to cry with total frustration. Everything was ugly: too tight, too expensive, too baggy, too bright…

The poor sales associate, Frances, fearing my imminent meltdown, found the department manager, a lovely, calm, reassuring man named Dallas. He offered the necessary sangfroid of my admired sartorial tutors — Clinton and Stacy on my favorite television show, What Not To Wear.

(If you’ve never watched, and need female fashion help, WNTW is your new best friend, the kind whose style and panache are matched with compassion and kindness for your freakouts over body issues. We all have them!)

Only with the help of three gently-encouraging people, including my sweetie who — being a photo editor and a man who’s been my partner for 11 years has both a great eye and knows my taste — could I even find enough clothes to feel that, yes, I now have assembled the start of a stylish and professional wardrobe.

Big deal, right? Isn’t this pretty basic stuff?

Maybe if…

You make a lot of money, so spending it doesn’t freak you out and make you fear a penniless old age in a cardboard box

You work in an office surrounded by other people whose clothing and style help you figure out what to wear so you’ll fit in

You wear clothing in a one-digit size

Your mom/sister/best friend/auntie/Granny/gay male friend with fab taste took you shopping and helped you develop a clear idea what’s flattering on you. Which, of course, must change as you age. But how?! (My poor Mom and stepmom fled in fear after a few teenaged trips with me in search of a winter coat and a prom dress. I finally found both but not, literally, without visiting dozens of shops. I haven’t shopped with anyone female and stylish since then.)

You’re blessed with total confidence about the shape and size of your body and which colors and shapes you’ll rock. (My late step-mother, 13 years my senior, had exquisite clothing and a teeny tiny body and made me feel like a heffalump. My mom, a former model living far away, saw me in March: “You’re fat!” she said. Accurate, perhaps, but not confidence building.)

You don’t live in a city where many women and/or their husbands are very high earners, work out daily and stride the streets with terrifying hauteur In New York, (as in some other punitively stylish spots), looking successful on a budget isn’t easy. And if you’re ambitious and don’t look the part, you’re toast.

I find buying clothes so overwhelming I avoid it and then — boom! — I really need to look great right now and what the hell am I going to wear?

In 2009, I appeared on CNN on two days’ notice, in 2010 on BBC within hours of getting an email from England and, quite likely, will be doing some television appearances when my new book is out in two weeks. Right now I have 12 public appearances scheduled, from a closing conference keynote in Minneapolis in August to a local library reading in two weeks.

So I need clothes that are: flattering, comfortable, stylish, age-appropriate, forgiving of the weight I haven’t lost yet and chic.

And semi-affordable.

And what do people expect an author to look like?

No pressure!

Luckily, I finally found some great things, including two Tahari dresses, a strong sea-blue cotton shift and another in black; a gray print sheath dress that works with my curves, and three pairs of trousers. That’s a ton for me to buy at once and everyone was worn out, hungry and cranky by the time we got out of the store.

But working alone at home, year after year on a tight budget, has meant I’ve slid by on a snoozy, safe, comfy diet of leggings and Ts , flats and cardigans. Time to up my game!

Do you enjoy shopping for clothes?

What are your favorite places to find great things?

Enough Aw-Shucks-ing, Ladies — Kick Ass And Shout It Out!

In behavior, women on April 27, 2010 at 4:00 pm
Hell, as illustrated in Hortus deliciarum.

Hell, where prideful chicks fry forever. Image via Wikipedia

Hell, yeah!

Loved this post by Kate Harding on why women really need to stop “ah-shucksing” themselves into oblivion. (Thanks, T/S intern Chloe, for the tip!)

I’ve seen this my entire life. Women who are actually proud of what they do — whether breastfeeding twins and/or running a law firm and/or completing their first (or 25th) marathon or caring for an ill, aging parent — are trained from birth to pretend it’s nothing.

Really.

Because…?

Because, more than likely, some other women who find the whole confidence thing a little too scary and threatening will get all chicken-necked and hiss, to her face, or more likely behind it: “Who does she think she is anyway?”

Women are just as nasty to one another as we are to ourselves. We’ve already got (sorry, good guys, we love you) too many male feet crushing our windpipes, whether at work or domestically or economically or politically to need a stiletto on top of it. But when we can’t say “Yup, I’m really good at X,” we do it to ourselves.

I did this last week.

I’d been telling a fellow board member (yes, I serve on two pretty busy volunteer boards, with four face to face meetings a year, monthly conference calls and many ad-hoc emails) how hard I’d worked, because I love it, on our apartment. I’ve studied interior design at a great school, The New York School of Interior Design and even got an A (yay!) in our notoriously tough color class. When a colleague said, admiringly: “Your apartment sounds beautiful,” I was stymied.

“Um. Yeah. Um. Probably.” Modesty forbade me from saying, yes, it is.

I won my National Magazine Award in 1998 but have never even framed the certificate, which is quite beautiful and done in calligraphy. It’s in a cupboard. Where would I put it in, in a one-bedroom apartment, that isn’t eye-rollingly obnoxious?

Some people think I’m arrogant as shit (and maybe I am) because I’m usually really proud of my accomplishments. My Dad, who’s won all sorts of amazing awards for his work (which he’s hidden in the basement or even given away), poked me recently: “You don’t lack for confidence, do you?”

This can also be a deeply culturally-ingrained behavior you carry with you for decades, even when you live somewhere like New York City and its mostly-wealthy suburbs where modesty is seen as some sort of mental disability. Canadians, bless ‘em,  are heavily socialized to be self-deprecating and reflexively shrug off all praise. That Nobel? Feh. See also: Japan (the tallest nail gets hammered down) and Sweden and Australia (the tall poppy gets its head cut off.)

I live in New York, work in a dying industry filled with thousands of sharp-elbowed, well-connected competitors, in a recession. Not the best time to hide your light (no matter if it’s 40-watt) under a bushel.

If still you’re denying your fabulousness (which does not mean Facebooking every bloody mouse-fart you or your children or dogs just completed!), stop right now.

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